Feeds

MS uses court order to take out Waledac botnet

Zombie network decapitated. For now

Security for virtualized datacentres

Microsoft has won a court-issued take-down order against scores of domains associated with controlling the spam-spewing Waledac botnet.

The software giant's order allows the temporary cut-off of traffic to 277 Internet domains that form command and control nodes for the network of compromised machines. Infected (zombie) machines are programmed to regularly poll these control points for instructions and spam templates.

The .com domains, registered in China, will be sin-binned by VeriSign, at least temporarily decapitating the network. Microsoft estimates that Waledac was one of the 10 largest botnets in the US and a major distributor of spam for online (unlicensed) pharmacies, knock-off goods and other tat, as explained in a blog posting by its legal team here.

Waledac is estimated to have infected hundreds of thousands of computers around the world and, prior to this action, was believed to have the capacity to send over 1.5 billion spam emails per day. In a recent analysis, Microsoft found that between December 3-21, 2009, approximately 651 million spam emails attributable to Waledac were directed to Hotmail accounts alone, including offers and scams related to online pharmacies, imitation goods, jobs, penny stocks and more.

The Microsoft lawsuit also accuses 27 as-yet-unnamed defendants of cybercrime offences associated with the Waledac botnet.

Redmond's techies have followed up the legal action with "ethical countermeasures to downgrade much of the remaining peer-to-peer command and control communication" within the botnet, in partnership with its security firm partners.

Operation b49, as Microsoft dubs the Waledac takedown, still leaves the problem of hundreds of thousands of infected PCs, as Redmond readily acknowledges. Clean-up advice including a suggestion to try out Microsoft's malicious software removal tool is included in the bottom paragraphs of a blog post by Tim Cranton, associate general counsel at Microsoft, here.

Criminals running botnets have faced a number of takedown operations over the last year or so, dating back to the McColo shutdown. All normally result in a temporary slowdown in spam volumes. But cybercrooks are getting better at building more resilient networks. Even if that doesn't work, there are always more miscreants in the shadows ready to step in and sell bulk mail services to unethical, unscrupulous or outright criminal marketeers.

Microsoft's enforcement action is welcome, but it treats only the symptoms - and not the root cause - of the botnet epidemic. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
NASTY SSL 3.0 vuln to be revealed soon – sources (Update: It's POODLE)
So nasty no one's even whispering until patch is out
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Forget passwords, let's use SELFIES, says Obama's cyber tsar
Michael Daniel wants to kill passwords dead
FBI boss: We don't want a backdoor, we want the front door to phones
Claims it's what the Founding Fathers would have wanted – catching killers and pedos
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
Admins! Never mind POODLE, there're NEW OpenSSL bugs to splat
Four new patches for open-source crypto libraries
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.